Saturday, May 19, 2007

Eclipse RCP missing the Business Desktop opportunity?

I was recently involved (tangentially) with a biz app proof-of-concept effort that used an eclipse RCP front-end for a J2EE middle tier. The prototype was quite successful. However, when considering adopting the RCP approach, there’s concern that if we just start knocking off a bunch of apps as plug-ins, we’ll run into some problems:

  • duplication (code, functionality)
  • managing relationships/dependencies between plug-in
  • biz users complaining about the update mechanism

I’m willing to bet there are others I’m not thinking of. Not to suggest that these are problems with RCP or Eclipse--I’m sure a team of seasoned plug-in developers could produce and maintain an excellent suite of custom RCP biz apps. But after doing a few such plug-ins, they’d probably realize that they could refactor out a foundational plug-in that provides common support services that were duplicated among the various app plug-in. In fact, this concept already has a name… the “Business Desktop”. I heard this term from a valtech-tv.com presentation titled "Enterprise applications with Rich iDesktop applications on Eclipse" (see link below). Essentially, a Business Desktop would be an RCP-based business application environment. The Business Desktop could provide services including:

  • provisioning
  • search
  • authentication/authorization
  • preferences
  • Expression Language (assuming contexts are set up)
  • scripting
  • logging
  • error handling
  • service locator

The overarching theme is something like “app plug-ins do biz logic, the business desktop does everything else”. Such an approach would greatly reduce the learning curve for RCP adoption for business apps.

There are already some pieces of this available too. The Maya project is working the provisioning piece. And I’m sure others are out there (or are available via the Eclipse api but could be wrappered for convenient plug-in use). But I don’t see anything like the Business Desktop on the horizon. Is it there but I am missing it? Is it not needed? Comments welcome.

References:

Enterprise applications with Rich iDesktop applications on Eclipse:
http://www.valtech-tv.com/
I can’t give a direct link to the "" since it is flash based. Registration required unfortunately--but there are some good technical screencasts there:

Maya project:
http://www.eclipse.org/proposals/maya/

1 comment:

Patrick said...

Hi Clark,

I definitely agree that there is a common business layer that could be implemented on top of the core RCP. Security and provisioning would be at the top of my list, as these are two of the most painful areas for corporate shops using RCP. Some RCP users have done this internally, JPMorgan's OneBench is a great example, but nothing I've seen is open source.

I think the best we can hope for is that RCP continues to evolve with the interests of business desktop users in mind. I definitely see progress in the provisioning area, not so much in security. It's important for corporate/business systems implementers to get involved in the process (file Bugzilla entries, etc) and make themselves heard.

Thanks for the though-provoking post.

--- Patrick